Those of us who live and work in Silicon Valley are well-acquainted with the trials and tribulations of Bay Area traffic. We all have our personal horror stories, such as the time it took me nearly two hours to drive 30 miles during the last big rain storm. Painful. Of course, most days public transportation is very appealing – we can read our local paper, work on our laptop and even get to work a little earlier without sitting in traffic.  However, with decreased funding for trains and buses, it’s likely that schedules will be further reduced and some lines may shut down altogether. I heard a report recently on KQED, our local NPR radio station, that said Caltrain reduces traffic by 20,000 cars a day. Can you imagine if all those cars were back on the road? The bottom line for commuters is that we’ll likely be spending even more time on the road, or we’ll need to find alternatives to the traditional nine-to-five commute. Or both.

While increased traffic congestion is certainly a problem, today’s technology can help provide a solution. Virtual computing allows us to do two things: first, increase our efficiency when we’re working out of the office using virtual desktop, app and meeting technologies; second, avoid the commute altogether by working from anywhere.

High-speed Internet access on the train, bus or other public transportation system is one way to boost productivity while commuting. Corporate support for mass transit with access to work tools can do wonders for boosting ridership and productivity. Google and other local companies set a good example with Wi-Fi on their employee shuttles. And for those of us who must travel for work, whether by plane, train or automobile, we can now choose from hundreds of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. All of these devices can be equipped with technology, such as Citrix Receiver, that enables us to access our corporate applications and data from the road or wherever we may be. In a nutshell, virtual computing truly liberates the individual worker.

Even more opportunities exist for companies that are willing to rethink the rules of the workplace. Since virtual computing has come so far in the last few years, companies should take a fresh look at their policies to ensure they’re giving workers the flexibility to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Not only can this boost employee productivity and morale, it can also reduce facility costs. For example, one Citrix customer told us they conducted an audit of their offices and found that at any given time during the work week, they were only at 80 percent capacity in their buildings … and they were set up for 120 percent capacity! They set about consolidating office space and applied the savings to their virtualization strategy.  Now that’s an appealing trade-off!

This example underscores the reality today: that most people simply are not in the office as much as they used to be – and they don’t need to be to get their job done. In fact, the latest Citrix survey from earlier this month showed that 87 percent of respondents work outside the office, with more than 50 percent offsite one to two days a week and nearly 30 percent offsite three or more days per week. And a whopping 98 percent of the respondents said they are at least as productive, if not more productive, when they aren’t in the office.

This trend is fast becoming the new normal, and it’s time for companies to get ahead of the curve. My colleague, Brett Caine, wrote this article for The Huffington Post in honor of last week’s National Telework Week.  He makes a brilliant case for why and, more importantly, how companies should re-do their official policies to incorporate a high degree of flexibility in the workplace, which will create tangible benefits for both employees and employers: “Freedom from the company office is liberating for employees and, with the right policies and tools in place, can drive performance and business innovation.”

A workshifting policy, or, in other words, a policy that lets employees move their work anywhere, can boost productivity and increase job satisfaction, which in turn helps recruiting and retention. It may also lead to improved efficiencies, such as company space planning, since workshifters may not need or may be able to share an office or workstation.

I can tell you that Citrix has a formal workshifting policy in place and the goal is similar to what I’ve described above. Surveys show that our employees love it, and the company also benefits in real, objective ways.

Of course, a workshifting policy can also minimize the environmental impact of commuting by taking cars off the road, decreasing gas consumption and reducing traffic congestion. Which takes me right back to where I started: traffic!

If we want to reduce the effects of too much traffic, we can start by looking at our workplace needs. Ask yourself: if you have technology that enables you to do your job from anywhere, do you really need to drive to your office?

Let me know if you think your company would benefit from a workshifting policy. I’d love to hear from you!